April 12, 2018
By Mike Luci
Following up on our preview of this round one matchup, the New Jersey Devils will certainly have their hands full against a stacked and well-balanced team in the Tampa Bay Lightning. If yesterday’s practice was any indication, it looks like Coach Hynes is going with (for the most part) the offensive lineup we expected. While the availability of Marcus Johansson is still up in the air, Hynes does appear to be sitting out rookie Jesper Bratt in exchange for Brian Gibbons, which is the only noteworthy lineup detail worth mentioning.
On defense, I want to say Hynes is going with experience in his decision to seemingly go with Ben Lovejoy over Damon Severson, although that wouldn’t adequately explain why Mirco Mueller seems like a shoo-in to play tonight. We should expect Keith Kinkaid to start in net on New Jersey’s side, with Andrei Vasilevskiy manning the pipes for the Lightning. While there was some speculation his health status might keep him out, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper did confirm captain, Steven Stamkos will be playing tonight. Aside from Stamkos, there doesn’t appear to be any notable changes or inclusions in Tampa Bay’s lineup.
Keys to the Game
Survive the first 10 minutes….More often than not, the home crowd can give the edge to their team in the first game of a playoff series. While the energy at Amalie Arena will certainly be high, the Devils are lucky to not be playing in a Toronto, Winnipeg, or MSG-type setting. Nonetheless, the Devils need to survive at least the first 10 minutes of this game to not only take the crowd out of it but to try and set the tone early.
Stay out of the box….The Lightning have one of the best power plays in the league. Not only did they score more times than New Jersey on the man-advantage this season, but against them in their season series. The Devils have been relatively inconsistent with discipline this season, which is a potential Achilles’ heel Tampa Bay could exploit if New Jersey isn’t mindful.
Kinkaid’s play….Entering the playoffs as the NHL’s winningest goalie since February (16-3-1), this is unfamiliar territory for Kinkaid, along with nine other Devils skaters. Despite his remarkable stretch of play in his last 20 appearances, he is still relatively unproven and has no postseason experience whatsoever. While we’ve seen several instances of goaltenders unexpectedly rising up to the occasion in the past, Kinkaid will need to maintain the level he’s played in his last 20 starts to give New Jersey a chance.
The Devils will play a strong game, but the Bolts will take Game One. They’ll have the home town crowd behind them and will be riled up for sure. I predict a 4-2 victory for Tampa Bay to get this series started.
I’m playing this game on www.statementgames.com for the newest and most innovative form of fantasy sports. Here are my two lock picks for this evening’s tilt:
Sami Vatanen will play OVER 23.00 minutes
Tampa Bay Lightning Total Shots On Goal OVER 33.5
Where to Watch
SUN (Tampa Bay)
NHL Network- US (National)
When to Watch